The Chosen

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The Chosen Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Reuven returns to school where everyone thinks he is a hero because of the softball game. The game feels very far away to Reuven. He goes to see Danny at the library after school and finds him reading in the back of the third floor, where Reuven has never been before.
Reuven has changed since his injury, which was indicated first in his new observations of his home and now again in the new way he interacts with his friends. Danny has hidden himself in the library because he has to hide his secular reading from his father.
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Danny is reading remarkably quickly and doesn’t notice Reuven at first. Because Reuven can’t read yet with his injured eye he closes his eyes and thinks about mathematical logic. Danny comes over and tells him he has been reading Graetz’s History of the Jews. He is disturbed that Graetz writes that Hasidic tzaddics became greedy, “vulgar and disgusting.” Reuven tells Danny that he should speak with Mr. Malter about it before he takes the history too seriously.
Danny is disturbed by his history and is reading about it because he is conflicted about his own faith and future as a Hasidic leader. Reuven’s reaction shows what he has learned from his father and also that Jewish history is very complex. He recognizes that there are different people with different ideas, and sometimes people have extreme ideas that are not entirely accurate.
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Danny starts speaking about the concept of the unconscious, which he has been reading about in philosophy books. Danny is fascinated by the idea that people have an unknown inner self. Danny has been teaching himself German so he can read Freud to learn more about these concepts.
Danny reveals his secular interest in philosophy, which will become even more important as the book proceeds. He is fascinated by the soul as more than a religious concept.
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As they are leaving the library Danny looks around to make sure that no one he knows has seen him there. When Reuven gets home he tells his father that Danny has been studying German in order to read Freud. Mr. Malter is surprised but says that there will be no way to stop Danny. Reuven asks about Graetz’s history of the Jews and Mr. Malter says that Graetz was biased and exaggerated their faults.
Mr. Malter knows that Danny’s intellectual curiosity is insatiable. He also repeats that Jewish history is complex and that the issues with Hasidism are not as obvious as Graetz implies. In comparison, in The Chosen, Potok depicts a nuanced view of the various forms of the Jewish faith.
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Mr. Malter feels guilty that he has been telling Danny what to read behind Reb Saunders’s back. But he believes that Danny would have continued to read on his own anyway, and it is good to have direction from an adult. Mr. Malter says that Reb Saunders will find out one day and it will be a difficult situation.
Mr. Malter does not want to interfere with Reb Saunders as a father. He knows that he has acted as a father figure to Danny, and that Danny needs some substitute in addition to his distant father.
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Reuven goes over to Danny’s house of Shabbat to study the Talmud with Reb Saunders. Reuven meets Danny’s kind mother and his pretty sister. Reb Saunders tells Reuven that he now knows that he is a good mathematician and now they will see about “more important things.”
Reuven sees the warm familial side of the Saunderses: the largely unmentioned women. Reb Saunders is about to test Reuven again, he needs to further vet Reuven as Danny’s friend in terms of his religious knowledge.
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This discussion is different from what happened in front of the congregation – now Danny and his father are truly battling. They speak quickly and passionately and Reuven sits and listens. Although he is overwhelmed at first, Reuven comes to realize that Danny may beat him on breadth of knowledge but that he is Danny's equal in depth.
Reuven realizes that in many ways he is Danny’s intellectual equal – another reason that they can be close friends. Reb Saunders has taught his son to care deeply, or at least fight passionately, about detailed points of Judaism.
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Now Reuven feels he can contribute. He enters the “field of combat,” making a point in support of Danny. The Saunders seem unsurprised that he is finally contributing.
By joining the conversation Reuven has passed Reb Saunders’s test. He can participate in what Reb Saunders sees as the most important part of life.
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The argument comes to an end and Reb Saunders sends Danny to get some tea. Reb Saunders tells Reuven that he has “a good head.” He then says that he knows that Danny has been going to the library and reading secular books. He says that his son is his “most precious possession” and he wants to know what he is reading but cannot ask him. Reuven is nervous but tells Reb Saunders everything that Danny is reading, and that Mr. Malter has been suggesting books. He leaves out the fact that Danny has been learning German to read Freud. Reb Saunders laments that his son is so brilliant.
Reb Saunders shows that he really does understand his son in spite of his distance. Although he greatly respects knowledge, Danny’s brilliance scares him. It shows that he understands that Danny’s intellectual curiosity could bring him away from his role as tzaddic. Leaving out Freud shows that this will become a problematic interest of Danny’s later in the novel.
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Danny comes back and the three continue to discuss the Torah. As they are walking home Reuven tells Danny about what happened and, to Reuven’s surprise, Danny is relieved. Danny tells Reuven that his father as brought him up in silence. They only speak when they are studying the Torah. Reuven tells Danny that he should try talking to his father and Danny insists that he can’t.
Danny’s frustration with Reuven’s inability to understand his father’s silence shows that he has accepted it in some way. He does not understand it but he believes that his father is doing it for a reason and this will never change.
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Reuven tells his father about everything that happened, including the Saunders family silent treatment. Mr. Malter tells Reuven that he has heard about this before but won't say anything more. Mr. Malter tells Reuven that Reb Saunders has talked to Danny through Reuven. He says that Reuven is in a difficult position.
Mr. Malter also understands something about Reb Saunders’s silence. He believes that fathers should be able to choose how to bring up their sons. He points out that one of Reuven’s roles as a friend may be as a form of communication between the Saunderses.
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